So apparently me and oneshots just don't mix anymore. This was originally meant to be a oneshot, but... it got longer. Now it's six chapters. They aren't horribly long chapters, nor are they irritatingly short. Though the last one is really short, just kind of an epilogue or something like that. Uh... anyway...
I won't do any explaining about the plot; I'd rather let the story speak for itself. So anyway, enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
Sokka smiled when he saw the great city of the Southern Water Tribe rising before him from the ocean of the South Pole. He pulled his canoe up on the snowy shore, hefting a damp bag full of fish over his shoulder. The snow crunched under his feet as he walked toward his home. While he was growing up, the South Pole had been a cluster of igloos. But, since Master Pakku and the other waterbenders had come four years ago, a great city had risen in its place.
Since the war had ended three and a half years ago, the gates were always open. The Southern Water Tribe welcomed any and every visitor. However, Sokka stopped in his tracks when he saw a young man standing before the open gate, staring into the city. He wore bright yellow and orange robes, held a tall staff in his hand, and was completely bald.
Sokka dropped his bag, sending dead fish sprawling over the snow. The sound caught the young man's attention, and he turned around quickly.
"Hey Sokka," he said quietly, giving him a nervous smile and a little wave.
Sokka stared at him, eyes wide and mouth hanging open slightly. "Aang?" he said at last. "You've... grown." He stepped toward the young Avatar. Sure enough, Aang was nearly as tall as Sokka.
"So have you," Aang replied. Sokka had grown into an imposing man, six feet tall and rippling with toned muscles.
"How've you been?" Sokka said coolly. "Haven't seen you in a while. Three years and five months, actually."
Aang looked down uncomfortably. "Look... about that, I'm really-"
The young man didn't get a chance to finish, because Sokka had moved in a flash and sent him sprawling with a cruel uppercut to the jaw. Stars flashed before Aang's eyes as he sat up, rubbing his chin.
"I guess I deserved that," he muttered, looking up at Sokka, who was standing over him with his arms crossed angrily over his chest.
"You deserve a lot more than that for what you did, Aang," Sokka growled, glaring at him. "I don't get it. Why would you just leave like that? You didn't even tell anyone. You were just gone when we woke up." Aang didn't say anything. He slowly started to get to his feet. Sokka continued. "We'd stopped the war; the world was going back to normal. You were happy here, weren't you?"
"Yeah, I was, but-" Aang began quickly, but Sokka cut him off.
"Katara was happy," he said coldly.
A heavy silence fell between them. Aang looked at his feet. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
"She hasn't been the same since you left," Sokka said quietly.
Aang looked up at him. "How... how is she? Is she... engaged or... anything?"
"Practically every man in the Water Tribe has proposed to her, but she's turned down every one," Sokka replied. "Gran Gran was mad at her for a while, but she figured out pretty quickly that Katara was waiting for you to come back."
"I never wanted that to happen," Aang said desperately. "I mean, we were never... we weren't... we were always just friends."
Sokka looked at him levelly. "You've always been in love with her, Aang. Don't pretend I don't know that. She figured it out too. She was just waiting for you to do something about it."
Aang looked down again. He was at a loss for words.
"You took a big part of her with you when you left," Sokka said sadly. "She's broken. And you're the one who broke her."
"Well... I'm back now," Aang said uncomfortably.
"No, you're not," Sokka growled. "You aren't setting foot inside this city unless you swear you'll tell me when you leave."
"I swear," Aang replied immediately.
Sokka regarded him suspiciously for a second before cracking a smile. "It's good to have you back, Aang," he said, clapping the young Avatar on the shoulder. "Even if you are an idiot, you're still part of the family."
"Thanks, Sokka," Aang said with a smile.
"Hey, where're Appa and Momo?" Sokka asked as they began to walk into the city.
"Oh, they're around somewhere," Aang replied. "I'm pretty sure they're looking for food or-"
"Hey, Sokka, where's Toph? I have to ask her some... thing..."
Aang stopped in his tracks, recognizing that voice. He turned around quickly, and his eyes fell upon Katara. His heart practically stopped and the air left his lungs. Katara had grown up in the past three years. And she was absolutely beautiful. She was frozen in place, staring at him with wide eyes.
"Aang?" she whispered in disbelief. "Is it... really..." She trailed off, unable to continue.
"I'm back," he said quietly. He couldn't believe his eyes. Three years away from her seemed like forever.
"Aang..." she breathed, taking a tentative step toward him. He dropped his staff and moved toward her, stopping when they were a few feet apart. They stared at each other for a moment, not sure what to do. Katara reached hesitantly toward him, jumping when her fingertips touched his cheek. It was as if she hadn't believed he was really there until she touched him.
Aang watched as tears made her eyes shine, but she looked down quickly and blinked them back. When her gaze returned to him, she was smiling. Aang's breath caught in his throat. Her smile was the same as it had been since day one. He smiled back at her, and she closed her eyes as if the sight was too much.
Sokka silently watched the reunion of two lovers with a smile on his face. Of course, they didn't realize they were lovers. Everybody else did, but they didn't.
Aang moved the rest of the distance between them, pulling her into his arms in a fierce embrace. Katara let out a shuddering breath as she wrapped her arms around his neck. He could feel her trembling against him. He himself couldn't contain a shiver as she nuzzled her face into his neck with a sigh. He buried his face in her hair and inhaled deeply, comforting himself with her familiar scent.
Katara pulled back from him slightly, placing her hands on his shoulders and closing her eyes. She rested her cheek against his.
"I've missed you," she murmured.
"I've missed you too," he whispered back.
Aang ran his hands down her back and rested them on her waist, just glad to be close to her again. She sighed, enjoying the contact.
"Are you..." Katara began quietly. "Are you leaving soon?"
"No," Aang replied immediately. "I'm staying here. With you."
Katara hugged him again. "Thank you..."
"I'm sorry," Aang said suddenly.
"No... I never meant to... I mean I thought you would... be okay..."
"Aang, don't. Please, just... hold on to me, okay?"
The two of them pulled apart quickly, having forgotten Sokka was there. Aang shuffled back and forth on his feet with a small embarrassed smile on his face. Katara just blushed deeply and looked down. She still looked surprised that Aang was even there.
Sokka smiled and looked between them. "Come on," he said, walking further into the city and gesturing for them to follow. "Let's find Aang a place to sleep."
Aang's eyes widened a little when he felt Katara's hand slip into his own. Aang looked over at her in surprise. She smiled softly at him and shrugged a little.
"I just... want to be close to you," she said quietly, blushing a little. "You don't mind do you?"
Aang smiled at her. "Not at all," he replied, squeezing her hand.
Sokka rolled his eyes, grinning knowingly. "Could you guys hold off until you're alone please?"
Aang blushed again, but Katara just glared at her brother. After a moment, however, she smiled a little and stopped walking. Aang and Sokka both stopped and looked at her.
"How about you go look for a place for Aang," Katara said simply. "We have a lot to talk about."
Aang looked at her, startled, but her smile remained in place. Sokka looked at her suspiciously for several tense moments before he shrugged.
"Suit yourselves. I'll find you when I find a place," he said. He turned and walked away, throwing one last glance over his shoulder at them.
Once he was out of sight, Katara grabbed Aang's shoulders and pulled him into another hug. Aang wrapped his arms around her immediately, smiling contentedly.
"What's this for?" he asked quietly after several moments.
"Well... Sokka said to wait until we were alone, right?" Katara pointed out. "And I did say I wanted to be close to you. You said you didn't mind."
"I don't, I don't mind," Aang said quickly. "I was just a little surprised."
Katara backed away from him, looking at him cautiously. "Don't be surprised that I care about you, Aang," she said quietly. "Don't ever be surprised. No matter what happened between us before…"
Aang looked down, ashamed. "Katara, I'm so-"
"Don't," Katara cut him off quickly, moving toward him again and placing her fingers beneath his chin, tilting his face up to look her in the eyes. "Please, don't."
"Don't what?" Aang asked quietly, unnerved by how close she was.
"Don't apologize," she said quietly, pulling herself against him again and laying her head on his shoulder. "Don't give me a reason. Not yet. I… I haven't healed yet, Aang. Three years and five months wasn't enough time to put myself back together…"
"Katara…" Aang said sadly, wrapping his arms around her waist.
"Let me finish," she whispered. "I just want to get to know you again, Aang. I don't want to be sad right now… when I should be so happy. Because… I am so, so happy that you're here."
"I'm happy too…" Aang murmured, closing his eyes and resting his head on hers. He heard her sigh and felt her warm breath on his neck, making him smile a little. But at the same time, he couldn't help but think of what Sokka had said to him…
"You were happy weren't you? Katara was happy."
"I was happy… then, too, Katara," he whispered under his breath.
"…I'll tell you later."